When searching for a good, responsible, and ethical dog breeder, you have to take a lot into consideration. You’ll also probably ask the breeder a lot of questions.
If you choose a bad breeder, you can end up with a sick puppy or one that grows to have a lot of health issues.
If you find a good breeder, you’ll have a puppy that is healthy, well adjusted, and it’ll bring you many years of healthy and happy companionship.
I hope this post will help you find a responsibly dog breeder no matter the breed you decide to get.
Why Good Breeders are Important
With so many breeds out there, it’s important you know what you want. Once you know the dog breed you want, finding a good breeder is the next step. You’ll want to find a trusted breeder to have the best chances of getting a healthy purebred puppy. Of course it is possible to find a purebred dog in the shelter but typically speaking, any ethically bred dog won’t ever find itself in a shelter as the breeder contract states it’ll go back to them, no matter the circumstance.
Going to a breeder is also a great way to go if you are wanting a dog for a specific purpose. If you need a dog cut out for service dog work, search and rescue, protection, or another reason, going the route of a breeder is usually the best practice. An ethical dog breeder is not the reason shelters are overflowing.
Ethical Dog Breeder vs Bad Breeder
It’s important to remember that not all breeders are created equal. There are the ethical, responsible breeders, backyard breeders, and puppy mill type breeders. There are many lousy breeders, I’d say there are more bad breeders than good, ethical dog breeders out there.
For example, just google, “golden retriever puppy for sale in (your city)” and you’ll find an abundance of pages with people selling dogs. Many will come from backyard breeders who had an accidental litter or people who just wanted to breed for money. Others come from puppy mills. My area has so many people who just want they dogs to be a mother so they breed and sell puppies, which is fully unethical. You can even find mail delivered puppies, it’s crazy! I recommend avoiding these at all costs.
You’ll also come across some gems. These are the good, ethical dog breeders who provide numerous benefits for buying a dog from them.
- They’ll match you with the puppy best suited for your household and what you are wanting from the dog (even if it’s just a pet)
- They’ll provide so much valuable guidance, knowledge, and education about your dog’s breed.
- They tend to provide a good timeline of what to expect through the puppy years and into adulthood. Can help with training issues, make sure you know when to expect fear periods, and keep you and your puppy on track while they grow.
- They can even help guide you on using the right grooming tools for your puppy.
There is also so much more they’ll help you do as well. That is just the basics of what a good breeder will do.
How to Spot a Good Breeder: 10 Things to Look For
It takes time and a lot of research, communication, and time to find a good breeder. It typically won’t happen overnight.
1. Puppy Parents On Site
Ideally you want to have the dog’s parents on site. Sometimes it’ll just be the mother as the male dog might have been a stud and then went back to its owner. Be sure to ask about the father though. Any good breeder will be willing to let you meet the parents if it’s possible. The parents are the best way to have a god idea of what your dog will be like as an adult.
2. One Litter at a Time
Raising puppies well takes a lot of work. That said, you want to find breeders who tend to only have one litter at a time. Sometimes it happens that females are bred closer together than a breeder would like and they’ll have a second litter “on the ground” and that’s totally fine but anything more than that, I’d consider you to reevaluate them.
3. Puppies Raised Indoors
Puppies raised indoor is typically best unless you are searching for an outdoor working dog such as a livestock guardian dog. When a puppy is raised indoors, they are more adjusted to the typical activities that go on inside a house. This can include kids, other animals, and normal household activities like cleaning, cooking, and vacuuming. Early puppy socialization is super important and valuable. If they are isolated or outdoors, they aren’t making the most of these valuable early months.
Be sure to inquire about this. Find out where the puppies are being raised. Is it indoors in a spare room, in the basement on cement, or do they get exposure to the household as they get a bit older? This is key information to know.
4. Parents over 2 years old
Veterinarians don’t recommend breeding your dog until they are over the age of 2 years old. This allows the dogs to fully mature and where you can do more health testing the parents too prior to breeding. A dog cannot get OFA or PennHip testing done until they reach age 2 for hips and elbows. Other tests can be done earlier, but shouldn’t be done too early prior to breeding.
5. Health Testing and Screenings
Most large breed dogs should have an OFA or PennHip test for hip and elbows. OFA testing can be done for a variety of other things as well. You’ll want to look up what testing is recommend for your chosen breed.
For German Shepherds, it’s recommend they have testing for hips and elbows . Along with that it’s recommended they be tested for cardiac evaluations (basic, advanced, and congenital), autoimmune thyroiditis, ACVO Eye Exam, and degenerative myelomaopathy. These are the bare minimums that should done.
This type of testing is expensive but all good breeders will do it. Also make sure you see and get a copy of the vaccination records that you puppy has received. You want to see documented vet visits and make sure you get a clean bill of health for you puppy.
6. Only Breed 1 Dog Breed
Most breeders only breed one breed. Sometimes they’ll breed a second purebred dog breed too but any more than that I’d be sure to avoid that breeder. Due to how long it takes to become an expertise in a dog breed, it’s best to buy from an ethical breeder who breeds just one breed of dog. You can always check the breeder name, phone number, or business name via google to see if anything else pops up. Some breeders may seem ethical but hide the fact they breed multiple dog breeds, making them more of a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or just generally unethical.
7. Canine Neurostimulation
Early Neurological Stimulation is conducted from day 3 to day 16 once daily with the puppies. What is ENS? It’s something that was developed but he US Military as a method to improve the performance of future working dogs. It doesn’t need tone done by breeders but can definitely be a sign of a good breeder, especially if they deal in the line of working dogs. You can learn more about ENS from the AKC website.
8. Breeder Picks the Family
It’s always a good sign if the breeder matches the dog to the family. This helps both the buyer and the breeder. The breeder has questions they ask to help you find the right dog from their program while you get matched to the dog that fits what you are wanting, whether it be a pet, a working dog, sport prospect, or another goal for your dog. Breeders know each individual dog the best, so they can match the puppy with the right personality and temperament to the right family or person buying a puppy from their breeding program. An ethical dog breeder wants the best for each puppy they sell and wants the best for the families buying a puppy from them, so don’t be shocked if they ask to meet each family member prior to helping you pick the right dog.
9. Puppies Not Available Until at Least 8 Weeks
There are many studies that show that taking a puppy away from its mother too young can cause issues, such as fear or aggression. An ethical dog breeder knows this and won’t give the puppies away prior to 8 weeks old. It’s important the breeder knows ands sees the milestones and that the puppies are hitting them before leaving their mother. It’s never worth the risk to get a puppy 1 or 2 weeks early, it’s best to just wait until the puppy is at least 8 weeks old. Some breeders even keep the puppies until they are closer to 10 to 12 weeks old.
10. Willing to Take the Puppy Back if Needed
Good breeders recognize that things happen. It’s typically in any and all ethical breeder contracts that should you not be able to keep the dog for any reason, they get the dog back. Hopefully you never have to give up your dog, but should something arise, your breeder will take the dog back.
Sometimes people run into issues such as a military family getting sent overseas and they can’t bring the dog, financial hardships, the dog simply wasn’t a good fit, or any variety of reasons. Knowing the breeder will take the dog back is just another sign of an ethical breeder who loves and cares for the dogs their program produces no matter the age of the dog.
Local breed clubs can be a great place to begin your search for finding an ethical breeder. The AKC also has their own list of breed clubs that you can explore.
Going to a dog show is another great place to go to see what breeders are there, as many breeders travel far distances to attend shows. They are usually very happy to talk to you about their breed and the pros and cons of the breed the raise. Not everyone has the money for the best of the best show dogs but they might be able to help guide you to finding a reputable breeder that’s more in your price range who is also working hard to better the breed they raise.
What do you look for in a good and ethical dog breeder? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out this blog post on Hurricane Preparedness with pets if you live in an area where you get hurricanes.